Why You Should Go To Film Festivals...No Matter What

February 2, 2016
Tips and Techniques
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Since the Sundance Film Festival of 2016 drew it’s curtains on Sunday, I thought it’d be a good time to discuss why film festivals are a good thing…regardless if you have a film screening or not. I was lucky enough to attend my third Sundance in Park City this year and through my experiences, I collected some thoughts worth sharing.

If you’re a filmmaker or aspiring filmmaker, here are 5 reasons why you should try to go to as many film festivals as possible.

1. They’re actually cheap. If you don’t have the budget to buy a package, or pass, that’s ok. There are plenty of free events, talks and exhibitions to attend. Sundance, for example, caters to the general public with plenty of programs and free giveaways. Plus, you can usually buy tickets a la carte or join a waitlist for screenings.

2. The social element. I can’t stress this point enough. Film festivals are kind of like summer camp. We’re all a little out of our element. We don’t know everyone. We have some general interests in common (movies, drinking, talking shop, more drinking) and we all want to leave feeling accomplished. Festivals level the playing field. If there is any climate to approach an exec, agent or the DP you’ve been fond of for so many years, it is at a festival. People are typically more open to talking shop with just about anyone. So you can “network” and build relationships with future collaborators without the fear of rejection or a hierarchy complex.

3. Inspiration. I personally draw much of my inspiration from cinema. Every time I watch a movie, good or bad, I come out  of the theater wanting to shoot! And when I’m at a festival, I get the creative bug tenfold. The buzz permeating through the streets, at the bars, while you wait in line…everyone’s talking about what they’ve seen, what’s hot and who just got acquired. If you're a lover of film, you should be coming out of the gates firing on all cylinders once you’ve spent some time at any major festival.

4. Uncle Sam Says Its Cool. This comes across as a joke, but it really isn’t. It’s a tax write-off. If you are in the film industry, you can write-off your festival visits as research and a business expense. I am no CPA so I am not licensed to give you tax advice. Let me make that clear. Please check with your accountant first. However, if you are legitimately attending “in the pursuit of an income,” save those receipts.

5. Learn. All of industry leaders have a presence in film festivals. Canon, ARRI, Kickstarter, Vimeo, IMDb and so on. If you want to get your hands on new technology or understand where the industry is heading, these well-paying sponsors will happily show you their products, what they’re up to next and you usually walk out with some free swag too.

So, if you don’t have a project to showcase at a festival, make one. You should always try to create! But until then, don’t be intimidated by the steep ticket prices, long drives and fear of being a small fish. Festivals are just as easy as doing nothing…but a lot more fun.

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Brent Barbano

I have been a freelance Cinematographer in Los Angeles for over 12 years. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, I also studied at Syracuse University’s film program. I am a proud member of IATSE Local 600 International Cinematographers Guild.

I am the Co-Founder of ShareGrid and I happily contribute my findings, ideas and news on ShareGrid with all of you.

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